Sunday, August 20, 2006

Well-behaved salmon burgers

Here’s my conundrum: the salmon from Costco is about half the price it is at the PCC or Metropolitan Market, but the quality isn’t as good. It acts like it’s been frozen, or if not "frozen" by whatever technical criteria the FDA uses to define “frozen,” at least “kept at a very low temperature for long enough to rupture some of the cell walls and cause water to leak unappealingly between the flakes of fish flesh when cooked.”

Hence, the salmon burger.

My first round of salmon burgers was a total failure because I thought you needed eggs and bread crumbs to bind the salmon together. Au contraire. Those burgers were mushy and fell apart on the grill. What you need is this:

For 12 salmon burgers:
  • 3 pounds “fresh” salmon filets
  • ¼ to ½ cup fresh shallots
  • zest of ½ to 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 to 1¼ t salt
  • 1T brown sugar (or less)
  • 3T mayonnaise
  • whatever spices you want: 1t cayenne, a bunch of paprika, some thyme, some rosemary—one or all
  • Food processor
  • Big bowl

To prepare:
  • Peel the shallot, chuck it in the food processor, and pulse until finely diced
  • Take the salmon off the skin, cut into 2-3” chunks, and put half in food processor with the shallot and pulse until ground, probably about 15 seconds total.
  • Put ground salmon/shallot mixture in big bowl, then grind the other half of the salmon in the food processor. Then put that in the bowl too
  • Add lemon rind, brown sugar, mayonnaise, and spices to the ground salmon. Stir until evenly mixed.

Testing the flavor:
  • I suggest you under-spice the mixture, cook one burger, then correct the spices in the rest of the mixture.

To form the burgers:
  • Oil your hands with olive oil and form patties. Make sure each patty is well coated with oil.
  • Stack in a Tupperware in the fridge or freeze individually, then stack together after frozen.

To grill:
  • Put about ½ t olive oil on one side of the patty, put that side down on the grill, grill 5-7 minutes at medium heat, coat the uncooked side with olive oil, flip, and grill 3-5 minutes on uncooked side.

On the grill, these behave pretty much exactly like hamburgers--they don't stick, they don't fall apart, and they tend to draw up a bit.

If you freeze the burgers, you can grill them without defrosting. I do 10 min per side with my gas grill on "low."

This recipe would probably work well with frozen salmon, too.


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